The Night My Sister Went to Hollywood
By Hilda Sheehan
Cultured Llama – £8.00
Such is the altogether coquettish charm, if not persuasion of many of these poems; it’s of the utmost importance to retain a crystalline understanding of their initial substance and meaning. Reason being, while The Night My Sister Went to Hollywood may well meander amid many a majestic metaphor of love’n’lust’n’all things in between (‘suspended sweetness,’ ‘a regimented tango, ‘a place to frame a holiday’), it is the slightly darker side of Hilda Sheehan’s poetry that surely, instinctively, resonates with the most critical clarity.
No doubt Leland Bardwell – who recently pronounced Sheehan’s work as: ”that wicked twist […] that I love… a difficult lift out of obsolete poetic seriousness” – would wholeheartedly disagree. Even if suave and succinct subjectivity does have a lot to answer for.
After all, one man’s T.S. Eliot is another (white van) man’s Arthur Mullard.
As such, these poems, like most things in life, do need to be kept in tenacious perspective. For as observant and mildly entertaining as something like ‘Oh Asda!’ invariably is:
suppressed, stacked baskets,
gagged by dusters sold on shelf 13.
We feed our young expired values,
In a bag for life grows numb,
knowing no one,
not even man, can face this trauma
Brain cells jump jelly bean-high
in the trolly
it’s such lingering poignancy as that found in ‘Dan,’ which so coherently stings.
While simultaneously reeking havoc amid the complacent cacophony of the beige bollocks of the everyday, said poem is a tender thunderbolt of literary, social delight:
Dan walked my way home,
had black teeth and fleas,
told me he saw a flasher once,
I said it was probably God
trying to tell him something
Then he kissed me,
a kiss that crippled me,
folded my spine,
sucked out my heart.
I heard he jumped
from twenty floors,
bones like pick-up sticks.
With her second book Frances and Martine about to be published (through the Chicago based publishers, Dancing Girl Press) here’s hoping the likes of ‘Dan’ will once again rear it’s all too prophetic head – as it’s not often the trajectory of such sociological observation is so quintessentially bequeathed.